Flashback: Diving into the Dubai Darkness

Gary Hunt
Rewinding back to 2016 for the World Series' first ever night-time event

On this day four years ago - October 28, 2016 - the world's best cliff divers were tested to their limits as they dived at night for the first, and so far only, time in World Series history. After eight exciting stops across the globe that year, it was over to Dubai for an intriguing floodlit finale.

Would the divers be able to execute their most difficult dives with reduced visual reference points? Would the floodlights prove too dazzling? And could Rhiannan Iffland, the rookie wildcard, complete a remarkable title victory in her debut season?

As it turned out, Iffland only needed to complete one dive to write herself into the history books, and the Australian could have been forgiven for switching off after that amid all the emotion. But the new star of cliff diving kept her concentration, held her nerve, and rounded off a glorious season with the same signature style and grace that she had displayed all year.

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Rhiannan Iffland lit up the Dubai darkness with another imperious performance. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

"I couldn't be happier," said an overjoyed Iffland. "It's been a dream of mine for the last couple of years just to be competing here, and it hasn't really sunk in yet that I won the title. I'd like to thank my friends and family and all of the divers around who have helped me."

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The first of what has turned out to be many titles for the brilliant Aussie. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.

Over in the men's, Gary Hunt had already secured his sixth World Series title at the previous stop in Japan. With that done and dusted, the big question was who would cope best in the unfamiliar conditions. For most of the divers, this was a highly unusual experience, and it was Hunt who perhaps summed it up best when he said: "I've never been on a movie set, but that is exactly what it feels like with all the bright lights shining on us. It's a very strange feeling and an adjustment for all of us to make."

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Lights, camera, action! Photo: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool.

A chance then, maybe, for somebody who'd been there and done it before to shine in the dark.

And that somebody turned out to be Andy Jones, who had earlier spoken of his previous experience of diving at night: "I feel good. I did 2,000 shows in the dark at 'O' (Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas) and this here is very similar; lights all around you, completely dark in the theatre."

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Andy Jones - 'the master of aerial awareness'. Photo: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool.

The American displayed his supreme aerial prowess from the get-go, ripping his dives into the marina to lead after two rounds, before holding off the champion's challenge to earn a first career victory. 

"I think my background was definitely an advantage," said a delighted Jones. "It definitely helped me out and I managed to win the first round and hold it the whole way. I have my best score ever and I got my first win."